Looking at the first half of 2020, we can confidently say that the travel industry took a massive hit. However, unlike many other industries, the travel sector has also been impacted at an existential level. Travel as a concept is built around the notion of free movement—an idea that is threatened by enforced global lockdowns and the ongoing fear of contracting a ruthless disease. Having lost what feels like more than a year of travel, people have started to crave it once again. The Sound’s previous piece on travel during COVID highlights new motivations emerging in the pandemic. People are looking to use travel as a way to escape from an uncertain world, simplify and control their futures (at least for as long as a trip), and reset and rejuvenate to be able to face the challenges that come their way.
Think back to when lockdown restrictions started to relax across nations… During the summer months, as lockdowns began to relax and nations started to slowly reopen, people’s desire to travel revealed itself. As blanket restrictions on non-essential overseas travel were relaxed in the UK, some travel companies confirmed an 80% rise in holiday sales. And to prove how much people really missed travel, some even latched on to the concept of “flights to nowhere”— like the seven-hour Quantas flight that sold out in record time, despite not actually touching down anywhere besides the departing airport. Seems like some people will really do anything (or rather, nothing) to get that sense of travel back! In the midst of our new reality, we’re seeing three distinct types of travel personas emerge—The Conservatives, The Balance Seekers, and The Opportunists.
Conservatives miss travel as much as everyone else; however, their go-to travel strategy is “better safe than sorry”. They are keen to travel, but not at the cost of contracting the virus themselves or putting others at risk.
Everything outside of their carefully controlled bubble is risky and non-essential travel just isn’t worth it.
They’re likely to wait for a vaccine, or at least until the pandemic is a lot more under control before venturing out. In the meantime, they are putting in all their energy into planning travel for the future in hopes they’ll be able to eventually make up for lost time.
The Balance Seekers
Balance Seekers have a similar mindset as the Conservatives, but they believe that if they strategize well, they can reap the benefits of travel by experiencing a change of setting without compromising greatly on safety.
Travel is possible if they take some serious precautions and limit their movements to stay safe.
This group travels away from home in closed bubbles (using personal cars, private accommodations, etc.) to live in different places for a fairly long period of time. The reality of “Work From Home” plays a huge role in giving people the freedom to work from anywhere, and we’ve already seen people moving out of cities for extended periods of time. The Balance Seeker’s way of enjoying travel is through short term relocation.
Opportunists are the ones who are most itching to travel again. They grab the first chance they get to travel as they are not sure when the situation might get worse again. They really need that break and are willing to go any length to take it.
Contracting the virus is a real possibility, but life must go on. The virus doesn’t slow them down—even if it does mean they have to take more care and necessary safety precautions.
This group is booking holidays every chance they get to places where they think it’ll be relatively safe to travel for a short weekend or week-long trip. If travel restrictions are lifted and they are not required to quarantine at their travel destination, opportunists are willing to take the risk to gain their sense of “normalcy” back through travel.
What Does This Mean for Brands?
The sense of urgency and need for travel in the past few months has been encouraging for the industry. However, with COVID-19 cases rising once again, the future continues to look uncertain. An anticipated second wave of the virus is bringing back earlier and more stringent restrictions. With this rise, people may respond by pausing and further postponing travel booking and planning. Nobody really knows what 2021 is going to look like, but as of now, hope is what drives people to bet on their travel plans. Until then, brands can step up and help people experience travel gains/benefits in different ways.
Create Safe Travel for the Three Types of Travel Personas
- Building authentic virtual travel experiences/tours–for both individuals and groups so people feel involved
- Going back to the drawing board and helping plan “make up” trips for 2021
The Balance Seekers
- Providing short-term relocation plans and helping people have a seamless relocating process
- Tapping into workcations and setting up the provisions necessary to make working from anywhere hassle-free
- Building safe travel bubbles/corridors (in adherence with local government restrictions)
- Curating unique all-in-one travel experiences (food, shopping, relaxation, adventure, etc.) where they can make the most of their travel time